The short story…

Arhan’s “The poet” reminded me of an incident that happened a couple of years ago…


In 1994, I was a second year HS student of Cotton College.


During College Week, my best buddy Piku, who gets flashes of innovation every now and then, decided to participate in the short story competition.


Piku's story was a mix of the mushy and the tragic. It revolved around a young woman who was on the last stages of cancer. For a melodramatic effect, Piku injected quite a bit of emotional but extremely clichéd conversation between the woman and her husband. At the end of the story, the woman dies, and the husband is left reminiscing about the good time he had with his wife.


I didn't like her story one bit. I hate tragedies. I have always believed that the world is too full of tragedies, and therefore, Piku had no right to inflict some more by way of a story. I was also sure that the conversation between the woman and her husband was lifted straight from a Hindi sob-movie.


I told Piku as much. I pointed out that her story lacked originality, and to be able to win, she ought to cook up an interesting, but original story. In its current state, the story was not only predictable; it was so badly written that it was almost embarrassing. I also begged her not to “kill” the woman in the story, but to “cure” her at the end, so that she could live happily ever after.


I had good fun teasing Piku about the story. I spiced it up a bit and narrated the same to the rest of our gang. We had a good laugh, and the verdict given was unanimous – the story was bad.


Piku was not affected by our scathing comments or by my behavior. She felt thoroughly justified in submitting the story as is. Her argument was that the story had enough meat to impress the judges. She had read the story that bagged the first prize in last year's competition. She told me confidently, “if that story could win a prize, our story deserves a Nobel.”


“Our story?” I queried. “So, are you collaborating with someone?” I asked. I was surprised and also a little hurt. I never knew that Piku had roped in some other person to help her in her story writing venture.


“Ohhh, didn’t I tell you about it?”


“No, you didn’t!” I retorted. 


“Must have forgotten. Sorrrrrry petli.” She replied.


I kept quite. I didn’t like being called a petli by Piku. She was (still is) petli-er than me.


My pride did not allow me to ask her with whom she had collaborated with. Piku, in her part, kept her silence.


The next day, all of a sudden, she discovered a passion for Statistics. So, in the days that followed, we hardly got to exchange a few words because Piku started spending her free time in “exchanging notes” with her Statistics pals.


On the concluding day of College Week, Piku met me in front of my Geography class. I pretended not to notice her, but she ensured that I did – by shouting my name at the top of her voice. Reluctantly, I looked up and waved back.


“Bol, ettiiyyai” “C’mon now,” she said. “The ceremony starts at 3,” she went on.


“Hey, I need to get back home,” I said. “By the way, what ceremony are you talking about?”


“Why, prize giving, off course!” she responded. “We have a good chance of winning. Ohhh, we mane moi aru Papiya,” she carried on.


Well, so it was Papiya that she was collaborating with. Piku told me that Papiya helped her to rewrite the story from a grammar and language perspective.


She eagerly thrust a few sheets of Xeroxed paper in my hand.


“Take a look petli, this is a winner. Papiya has taken care of the grammatical mistakes, but the story line is intact.” 


Errrr, OK,” I said.


“Ettiyyai, read it now.”


So, I read it. It was as bad as before, but this time I didn’t shoot my mouth. “Not bad,” I said diplomatically.


Suddenly, Piku looked abnormally happy. “Tenehole bol,” she persisted.


I had no heart to say “no” to my friend of 9 years, though I had serious doubts about her winning capabilities. Grudgingly, I tagged along to the ceremony.


On our way, we met Mriganka, a senior who had a crush on one of my friends.


“Congratulations Matu. Xobor too xooni bhal lagil dei,” he said and rushed along.


I wondered what “xobor” he was referring to, and looked at Piku for inspiration.


“Ohhhh, that? He was referring to your getting selected to the College quiz team,“ she assured.


 Our friends were waiting for us at the hall. The moment they saw me, everyone shouted “Congratulations” in unison. This time I was genuinely surprised.


Piku finally lifted the veil from the mystery. Apparently, she had submitted her story as a joint effort between the two of us and it actually won the first prize!


It transpired that there were only two contenders in the short story section, and since the other story was as bad if not worse than “our” story, “we” were deemed the winners. The prize had been declared two days ago, but Piku kept the news under wraps just to give me a surprise.


She reasoned that since we called ourselves best friends, it was only right that we shared the fruits of success together.


I was touched to the core. At the same time, I got reminded of my callousness – of how I had made fun of her story and enacted the now famous conversation.


I strongly declined to accept the prize that I did not deserve in the first place. Piku tried to make me “see reason”, but I could have none of it. Finally, after a round of “lecturing,” from my side, she agreed to my point of view and conceded that it really would not be a very ethical thing to do.


So, when our names were called, Piku stepped onto the stage alone. Meanwhile, I got into action – I climbed up a chair and hooted and clapped like mad. Other friends followed and in general, I made sure that Piku got a resounding applause from everyone present in the hall. I was truly, genuinely happy for her.


The next day, I threw a “surprise” party (roll & cold drinks) in honor of my best friend in Sunflower, Panbazar.


Note 1: This is a 99.99% true account. Only the conversation has been recreated.


Note 2: We hardly get to see each other nowadays, but Piku remains my bestest friend.


Note 3: Piku, if you are reading this, hope you realize that I am really sorry for what I had done…


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3 Comments

  1. That was a very very very interesting post … I read after a long time… keep up the good work Matu…. but y no mails?:((

  2. Hi Nandini,

    I was a bit tied up in the last few weeks. Tooooooooo much work…

    I promise, I'll write to you soon.

    And thanks for the comments. Really appreciate it.

    -Matu

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